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Walter Jason

Layoffs Highlight UAW Meet

(6 October 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 41, 14 October 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

DETROIT, Oct. 6 – Beginning of the layoffs of over 25,000 Chrysler and Briggs workers here this week was neatly timed by the corporations as a threat to the UAW-CIO which begins negotiations with Chrysler on October 20 for a cost-of-living bonus.

The drastic curtailment in employment and production at these plants reflects the growing uncertainty of the auto industry production schedules.

Shortages in steel, copper and lead have made auto production at Chrysler very spotty in recent weeks. The so-called “wildcat” strike wave that hit Detroit a week ago was provoked by Briggs corporation as a means of cutting into the financial reserves, if any, of the auto workers involved.

The short work week at Chrysler, Briggs and many other plants reflected the material shortages. Now they have become more acute.

Reuther Proposal Weak

In the face of this serious problem of the UAW-CIO, the only proposal made at present was by Walter P. Reuther, union president, and it was for a labor-management conference to be called by President Truman for the purpose “of heading off a depression and unemployment for the nation.”

The first reaction to this proposal in both union and company circles was that it fell flatter than the proverbial pancake. The fact that Reuther’s proposal was inspired by Philip Murray, CIO president, who twice made a similar request of President Truman, didn’t help it a bit.

Early in August Reuther tried to get such a conference in the auto industry alone, and the big companies simply ignored it or blasted the UAW-CIO for causing a “production lag.”

What is different now is the fact that both Chrysler and Briggs spokesmen say that steel shortages are the main cause of production slowdown.

Speed-Up More Intense

In the current issue of Business Week magazine, a study of the steel problem emphasizes the point that the steel shortage would become more acute until the summer of 1947, when it would reach its peak, and the auto industry would have a difficult time getting its present quota for production uses.

Combined with the layoffs, the auto corporations – GM, Ford and Chrysler in particular – are demanding “new production standards” – that is, the right to intensify the speed-up on the assembly lines.

Within the ranks of the union, the restless mood of the secondary leadership and the workers in the plants, has reached such proportions that the International Executive Board of the UAW-CIO is holding a special session on October 18 at Pittsburgh, to which Philip Murray has been invited. This is the reply of the leadership of the demand by nearly 40 union presidents in the Detroit area, that a special wage-policy conference of the UAW-CIO be called.

The grave problems confronting this IEB session are highlighted by the Chrysler layoffs.

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